Mumbai Indians began their 2016 IPL campaign with a 9-wicket loss against the MS Dhoni led new team Rising Pune Super-giants at Mumbai in the first match of the new season on April 9. Yesterday at Pune, MI paid back the RPS on the same token by a comfortable 8-wicket victory in the away game. In between, however, Mumbai slipped after their 6-wicket win against hosts Kolkata Knight Riders on April 13. They suffered two successive defeats in three days. On April 16, they lost to Gujarat Lions by 3 wickets and two days later on April 18, they were beaten by Sunrisers Hyderabad in the away game. After three losses in four games, Mumbai managed to beat Royal Challengers Bangalore at home riding on a blistering 19-ball 40 cameo by Kieron Pollard. Just when everyone thought that Mumbai were returning to winning ways, they lost another match on April 23 against Delhi Daredevils. Four losses in six games didn’t bode well for the defending champions and the scenario looked bleak for MI. Hopeful fans recalled something similar at the start of the 2015 season, when Mumbai Indians had looked down and out before engineering an amazing turnaround and when everything was done and dusted, MI emerged as the tournament champions. Suddenly, the history looks on the roll-back mode as Mumbai have notched up three successive victories and jumped to the second spot in the points’ table behind the current leader Gujarat Lions.
After languishing near the bottom in tournament standing with 4 losses in 6 games, Mumbai went to Mohali for their seventh game against Kings XI Punjab on April 25. MI lost the toss and KXIP asked them to bat first. Mumbai had a fateful start with skipper Rohit Sharma getting out for a duck in the first over. But Parthiv Patel and Ambati Rayudu rode their luck to amass 137 for second wicket by 15th over. A late blast by Jos Buttler and 10 runs from Kieron Pollard helped Mumbai reach 189/6 in the end. 190 was a stiff target in the chase for KXIP as they lost both openers early on. But Shaun Marsh and Glenn Maxwell scared Mumbai with an 89-run third-wicket stand before Marsh got out. 13 balls later, Maxwell also fell and Mumbai applied pressure through Japrit Bumrah, Mitchell McClenaghan and Tim Southee. The three speedsters took all the 7 wickets that fell as KXIP lost by 25 runs.
MI’s next played at home against KKR on April 28. Rohit Sharma preferred to chase after winning the toss. After Gautam Gambhir was dropped early, he and his partner Robin Uthappa launched a power-play onslaught that yielded 59 runs in 6 overs. But after Uthappa holed out to Pollard at long on and Shakib Al Hasan fell early, rate of scoring dropped noticeably. Despite Mumbai’s poor performance in the outfield, KKR couldn’t go beyond 174/5. When Mumbai came out to chase 175, they lost Parthiv Patel early but Rohit Sharma and Ambati Rayudu gathered 59 for the second wicket. But Rayudu’s departure triggered the fall of two more wickets and MI looked in trouble with 73 required in 7 overs. But out came Kieron Pollard and he bludgeoned the KKR bowlers to score a 17-ball 50 that stole the match from KKR with a 6-wicket victory.
On May 1, Mumbai went to Pune for their 9th match against Rising Pune Super-giants. Rohit Sharma got lucky with the coin toss and invited RPS to bat first. After Mitchell McClenaghan took out Ajinkya Rahane, Steven Smith and Saurabh Tiwary gave MI bowlers a tough time and scored at will. The duo rode on their luck as MI fielders dropped catches and produced another poor fielding performance. Smith and Tiwary raced away to add 84 for the second wicket before Smith fell for a 23-ball 45 that included 4 fours and 3 sixes. But Tiwary continued with new partners and scored 57 off 45 balls. Tiwary lost Peter Handscomb, who came after Smith got out but he had the company of skipper MS Dhoni, who notched up 24 off 24 balls. But the tempo of scoring had slowed down and RPS could only reach 159/5 in the allotted 20 overs. 160 for victory didn’t look difficult as Mumbai began with an explosive 39-run opening wicket stand between Rohit and Parthiv. After Parthiv fell in trying to force the pace, Rohit was joined by Rayudu and the two of them produced a 52-run second wicket stand. After Rayudu’s departure, Rohit had the company of Jos Buttler. While Rohit held one end, Buttler scored briskly and the two batsmen took MI to an emphatic 8-wicket victory.
With three victories on trot and five matches left in the double round-robin league phase, Mumbai look like the same side they did in the 2015 season. Their next match is six days away at Vishakhapatnam, where take on Sunrisers Hyderabad. Then they play against Royal Challengers Bangalore at Bengaluru on May 11; against KXIP at Vishakhapatnam on May 13, and Delhi Daredevils on May 15 also at Vishakhapatnam and the last match will be against Gujarat Lions at a venue that is not fixed yet. They need to win as many matches as possible to ensure that they finish within the top four and march into the playoff stage. Rohit Sharma is already in commanding form and most batsmen are peaking up with the tournament going into its climax. MI’s bowling trio of Bumrah, McClenaghan and Southee have performed well so far with McClenaghan already the top wicket-taker in the tournament. The issue of water shortage in Maharashtra has forced Mumbai to shift its home matches to Vishakhapatnam but they will have to take that in their stride.